Changeling is a highly-regarded 2008 film starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastwood. Jolie plays the role of Christine Collins, a mother in search of her son.
Did you know that there is actually a true story behind this drama that’s quite interesting?
The Story Behind Changeling
In the 1930s, a little boy took on the identity of a woman’s missing son. Distraught and desiring to find the little boy that she loved dearly, Christine Collins met Arthur J. Hutchins through police officers.
There were many theories surrounding the location of Christine’s real son and how Arthur came to deceive authorities. Many decades later, the truth came out.
Reason for the Deception
As it turns out, Arthur was a runaway from Iowa. When he was just 9 years old, his mother died, and he longed to escape from his stepmother.
This desire caused him to take on the identity of Christine’s missing son, who was also 9 years of age. There were likely many kids around the world that can relate to this scenario but couldn’t imagine doing anything about it. That wasn’t the case with Arthur.
Arthur was so convincing in his identity theft that he fooled an unimaginable number of people, including his friends and the police. Story has it that even the pets of the missing boy were deceived, believing that Arthur was the boy they once knew. Both the family cat and dog treated him like the long lost son everyone thought him to be.
In documents recovered long after the incident occurred, Arthur wrote about the poor treatment he experienced in his stepmother’s hands. He knew that she didn’t love him or want him to be around. That’s when he decided to embark upon a new adventure without any fear of what might happen.
Headed to California
Arthur was on the road for several weeks when he was found by the police in Illinois. It was at this point that he was questioned about Walter Collins, a boy that had been missing for six months.
The reason Walter disappeared is unknown as he seemingly vanished into thin air from Glendale, California. He was nine years old when he went missing. This is a compelling part of the story in the movie Changeling. Devon Conti did a great job playing Arthur.
How did Arthur go from being questioned by police to being identified as Walter? It started when the police mentioned that Walter went missing from California, which is where Arthur wanted to go.
His initial response to the police was that he did not know the missing boy. Eventually, he told them that he was, in fact, Walter. He did this solely to get to California.
A Mother’s Anguish
No mother in the world wouldn’t know or recognize her own son. So, did Arthur fooled Christine? Actually, he didn’t.
When she was introduced to the boy who claimed to be her son, he told the police that he was not her son, and a mistake had been made. The police chose not to listen to her. Instead, they had her placed in a psychiatric ward for demonstrating peculiar behavior.
Walter Remains Missing
This is quite a sad story because Walter remained missing, and nobody knows what happened to him. Losing a child is unimaginable. Christine remained grief-stricken. Some believed her son fell into the hands of a prominent serial killer during that period.
A notorious criminal named Gordon Northcott terrorized residents at that time. This may have been the reason behind many of the personal issues his mother had.
Arthur Issues an Apology
After some years passed, Arthur started feeling remorse for his actions, especially since they had a negative impact on Christine’s life.
He felt bad for contributing to the pain of a mother who lost a son she loved so much. He eventually also apologized to California officials for the problems he caused. As punishment for his deception, Arthur spent over two years in an Iowa boys school.
Arthur went on to have a family of his own, including a wife and daughter. He also established a career in sales, working concession stands at carnivals.
Arthur and his family eventually moved to California, where he worked as a jockey and a horse trainer. He died in 1954 from a blood clot. His daughter, Carol, is quite proud of her father and the adventurous life he lived.